by L.G. William Chapman, B.A. LL.B.
Recently I have been almost overwhelmed by an unending parade of tradesmen who are attending to one thing or another at both my office and my house. I have noticed too that many of my neighbours, both commercial and residential, are suffering the same plight. Likely it has all to do with two key factors. One is the climate of this country. There are but a matter of weeks to accomplish anything having to do with structures before they become buried in snow once again. Accordingly one must act quickly and with foresight.
Good luck trying to secure qualified professionals on short notice! Many of them are booked months in advance. I blame part of this inconvenience upon the drying up of trade schools, mistakenly replaced as they were by computer techies and software geeks. That’s a trend which I understand is now being reversed but of course it will take time to fill the gap left by years of oversight.
A second factor which is driving the current employment of the trades is that in times of overall economic flatness such as we are now experiencing more people are preserving what they have rather than trading it for something new. I suspect as well that the demographics of the aging baby boomers is such that the need for repair has finally come home to roost after having been successfully dodged for many years. The effect for example of successive seasons of freezing water upon red brick can no longer be ignored.
Whatever the reasons, one isn’t in the business of real estate long before recognizing that real estate investment is not for the pusillanimous. Real estate cannot be simply bought and then abandoned to take care of itself. Unless you have a concrete condo (as I believe some do in the southern United States to thwart those pesky termites) the reality of upkeep and maintenance is relentless.
If you live in the country you will compound the standard necessities by adding more layers of concern and expense arising from a well and septic system. Lately we’ve been thrown additional curves in the names of earthquake and flood. Who hasn’t heard the reports, as unimaginable as they are! And this time the bad news is not all from abroad as we North Americans are accustomed to hear; much of what is on the evening news is in our back yard.
Lately the threat of global warming is taking on surprising relevance as we additionally cope not only with soaring temperatures but also with resulting high winds which cause even more damage requiring repair.
In the broader context our limited supply of tradesmen is being eaten up by the almost universal need for infrastructure repair. Following the enthusiasm of post World War II there are now endless miles of infrastructures which are pushing well beyond their fifty-year shelf life and are crying for attention. I am assured on good authority that the new underground rail in Ottawa will produce the promise of soaring employment for decades to come.
Maintenance of property is a posture which doesn’t suit a lot of people, and the reason is not only because of the cost as one might expect. Maintenance often involves disturbance, frequently to the point of requiring something to be dismantled before it can be resurrected. The added threats of dust, noise, delay and inconvenience align to reduce significantly the appeal of the undertaking. In some instances the fear that the project may not succeed further evacuates interest.
Finally there are some who suppose that, considering their age and health, it is all for naught in the end, and as such may be better left to the next generation to improve. Duct tape to the rescue!
As unsettling as it may be, however, we are generally more satisfied to address what needs to be done to take care of our property. This attitude is usually supported by the prescription that one must spend the equivalent of 10% of one’s capital investment annually to preserve it.
All these factors conspire to occupy the trades. By the time the summer is at end we will hopefully have completed the paint job, the remodeled room, the repaired floors, the repointed bricks and whatever else is nagging us, all before we prepare for another winter and more freezing water!